Saturday, June 27, 2009

Growing Older

The passing of Farrah Fawcett came quickly on the heels of the death of Ed McMahon. And in this modern world of instant information and 24-hour news coverage, that means McMahon’s passing immediately became “old news”.

The news of Michael Jackson’s passing came the same day as the news of Farrah’s death. And once again, “Breaking News” took precedent, and Farrah’s death was shuffled to the bottom of the pile.

Which is unfortunate, as all three were pop icons of the past 25 years. All three deserved their time in the limelight. Sure they each had more than their allotted “15 minutes of fame”, but I think a little more time should have been devoted to their deaths.

I extend the same courtesy to all the average people who never even had their 15 minutes.

The passings of these three are important to my generation.It seems I’ve known them my whole life.

Ed McMahon was always at Johnny Carson’s side on the “Tonight Show” – from 1962 to 1992. That represents most of my life.

And Farrah was the definitive “Charlie’s Angels” – even though she only appeared on one season. I was thirteen when her poster was published… ‘nuff said.

And Michael Jackson was “The King of Pop”. As a pre-teen I devoured “Tiger Beat” magazine, on which Michael and the Jackson 5 frequented the cover. In high school I helped usher in MTV and the “Thriller” video. I never wore “the glove” or tried to “moon walk”, but I saw a lot of others attempt it.

And now they are gone.

Their passings remind us that we’re growing older. As the idols of our generation grow old and pass on at a seeming faster and faster rate, so do we. One day, even Brad and Angelina will be spoken of with the same reflective affection as Bogie & Bacall.

“Do you remember the name of that movie they were in…?”

Even Jimmy Buffett will pass away one day. Yes, he’s growing older, but not up!

In fact, that little piss-ant country singer, Kenny Chesney, is already angling to become the next Jimmy Buffett, what with his beach songs and constant trips to Key West.

Not going to happen, Buck-o!

Every year we begin the Annual Conference with a Memorial Service honoring clergy and spouses who have passed on in the past year. And every year, I know more and more of the names read.

I believe it was Yogi Berra who advised, “Always go to other peoples’ funerals, or else they won’t come to yours.” Indeed.

This year at conference I encountered a retired preacher who had once been my D.S. He had always been a take-charge, in-control kind of guy. Twenty years ago he was going to “shape my career”… whether I wanted him to or not. Now he is slipping into dementia. I almost cried.

And when I look in the mirror, I see more and more gray hair on the head staring back at me. When did that get there? And my body is taking on my grandfather’s silhouette. And my fingers are getting stiff and starting to twist at the knuckles. And getting up out of a chair brings an almost audible “ufh” sometimes.

I used to be one of the “young clergy”. I used to be “on the cutting edge”. I used to complain about the old farts who were “out of touch” and in the way.

I guess I didn’t notice when church members stopped telling me, “Why, I’ve got a grandson your age.”

…and the bunch of young guns roaming the conference started telling me what a mess I’ve made of it.

Worst of all, I realized the cuties at Hooters only card me now because it’s company policy to card everyone.

Who, I must admit, are now young enough to be my daughters.


So the death of these three pop icons reminds us that life is fleeting. We are here today, gone tomorrow.

That sounds so morbid, fatalistic. It isn’t meant to be.

I don’t worry about dying. I know my eternity is secured.

I just don’t like the idea of growing old.

So here’s to today. Let’s make the most of it!

And if there is no tomorrow, we’ll have no regrets!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


My superstitious aunt always said, "Death comes in threes." Maybe she was right...


Ed McMahon

1923 - 2009

[insert laugh track here!]



Farrah Fawcett


...and what memories they were!



Michael Jackson

1958 - 2009

...the man of a thousand faces!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hating in the Name of the Lord

A group of formerly Episcopal parishes met this week to form a new national church – the Anglican Church in North America.

Now, I’m not one to say they can’t do this, but in a religious landscape already cluttered with denominations, one has to ask, “Why?” Why do we need another denomination?

Sadly, this one is being formed to intentionally exclude women and homosexuals from being bishops.

No, really. That’s their platform. They believe the real Episcopal Church has gotten too liberal, what with the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, to the office of bishop. They also don’t like that the Church elected Katherine Jefferts Schori, an openly female priest, to the office of presiding bishop.

Apparently they are okay with women and homosexuals as priests, but not as bishops.

‘Some of my best friends are women and homosexuals.’

So this new denomination, according to former Episcopal bishop Robert Duncan, will be about biblical authority, church discipline and evangelical missionary outreach. Says Duncan, who expects to be elected Archbishop of the new denom, this new church will attract anyone who seeks “the reliability of Scripture, the Catholic tradition and Pentecostal power…"

Duncan had the nerve to add: "If you see the love of Jesus in us, you will join.”

Frankly, sir, I don’t.

But hate seems to be the order of the day among Conservative Christians. At present, a group of Conservative Christian leaders are fighting a bill in Congress that would extend federal hate-crimes coverage to gays and lesbians.

The Matthew Shepard Act, named for a Wyoming man who was killed in 1998, would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the list of federally-protected classes.

Oddly, some in the Christian opposition would prefer to get rid of all hate-crimes laws. The Alliance Defense Fund believes such crimes are being sufficiently prosecuted without the need for specific hate-crimes legislation.

Tell that to the family of Sean Kennedy, a 20-year old who was killed for being gay. His murderer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 12 months and two weeks in prison.

Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel goes so far as to suggest that hate-crime legislation is unconstitutional.

Focus on the Family is okay with hate-crimes legislation, but not for sexual orientation and gender identity – because those are “changeable”.

Note to FF: One’s religion is changeable too, but I am guessing you want to keep that protected.

Some Christian leaders are afraid that hate-crime legislation will be turned against them if, for instance, they preach a sermon against homosexuality.

Brothers (and I say that intentionally), listen real close here: If your sermon is so vitriolic and hate-filled that someone reports you to authorities, then yes, you deserve to be prosecuted. That goes even beyond the worn out phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”!

Where is the love of Jesus?

Remember him? Does "Lord and Savior" ring a bell?

The guy who said, "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you."

And, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

And, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

The one who told the story of a Samaritan taking care of an unnamed wounded traveler and ended that story with the instruction, "Go and do likewise."

The one who freely gave up his own life for the sins of men. And women. And gays and lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgender persons.

I don't know what church you guys grew up in, but at my church I was taught, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world..."

But perhaps Jesus has since converted to Islam. In France, a group of Muslims are organizing in opposition to the growing radical conservatism of their faith. They want to embrace a more moderate position and even embrace the large number of non-practicing Muslims.

A group of Muslim clerics is also organizing to promote religious dialogue and tolerance within the Muslim community.

Christianity is not completely lost though. This month the Unitarian Universalist Church will meet and launch a new campaign called “Standing on the Side of Love”.

And this after a crazed gunman entered a Unitarian Church in Knoxville last summer and killed two people and wounded seven. He was reportedly angered by the church’s acceptance of homosexuality.

Although there are only about 1,000 Unitarian congregations, the campaign will attempt to mobilize each congregation to work to counter hate-crimes, violence, oppression and exclusion, to “stand on the side of love, which is our faith,” said a Unitarian representative.

Maybe there is hope for the world after all…

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

David to be Returned to Italy

[With power outages in Memphis, the Banana Winds Creative Staff is busy with other concerns. But to keep you reading, here is a "funny" sent in by a friend.]


After a two year loan to the United States , Michelangelo's David is being returned to Italy.

His Proud Sponsors were:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This week's news has been extremely blog-worthy. In fact, I've piled up several interesting articles on which to comment, but the front page of this morning's "Commercial Appeal" quickly elicted a "WTF!" from me, so stay to the end...

At first, I was going to bitch about this:

I'm not one to jump on the bandwagon of new technology, but a month ago I gave in and bought a new I-Phone. Initially, I thought it was just a toy -- two of my nephews have them, loaded with music and games. Then Joe bought one; then Sky bought one.

When I went into the AT&T store, I was seriously looking at a Blackberry -- a much more "adult" smart-phone -- but my fingers were too fat to punch the tiny little keys on the "qwerty" pad. Then I saw the I-Phone map feature -- and I was sold. Only $199, plus a hefty increase to my cell-phone bill for the data package.

I will not say it has been a marriage made in heaven -- the first time I synced with my computer I lost almost 300 contacts, complete with phone numbers, addresses and family information! Then, yesterday afternoon, the screen went blank for no apparent reason. An Apple Store employee got it up and running again... along with the suggestion that I sign up for their classes on how to use my new I-Phone.

Classes? To use a phone???

So then on Monday Apple unveiled a new I-Phone -- the 3GS. It will go on sale next week for only $199, and the "older" model -- my brand new I-Phone -- will now sell for only $99! Dammit!

And then there was this:

Neal Wanless, a 23-year-old rancher in South Dakota, won the $232 million Powerball Jackpot on May 27th. The down-on-his-luck cowboy, who lives with his parents on their 320-acre ranch, had a sad story to tell -- of broken-down equipment, a single-wide trailer being repossessed, a $5,300 tax-lein, and having to rely upon the kindness of town-folk to get by.

Now he's rich -- at least for the moment.

Wanless chose to take the lump-sum payment of $118,005,530 ($88.5 million after taxes) instead of the annual payments that would keep a steady flow of income to the ranch for the next 30 years.

Perhaps he's planning to buy the rest of South Dakota.

He thanked God for winning the jackpot, and promised he wouldn't squander the money. But, all things considered, I'll give him two years before he's flat broke again.

This next story brought a smile to my face:

A woman in California filed a complaint in San Diego claiming she had been eating "Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries" for four years and only recently learned the little red sugar-coated balls are not real fruit. Her suit was "on behalf of all crunchberry-eating Americans".

The judge, however, pointed out that every five-year-old knows there's no such thing as a "crunchberry" and after four years, she should have figured it out too.

And maybe, just maybe, she might have gotten farther with this suit if she hadn't filed a previous law suit against "Froot Loops" -- no "froot" there either!

Then there was this email in my box, with the following subject line: "I was concerned about my small penis..." Sounds like a personal problem. I deleted it without reading.

But what really got my goat this morning was on the front page of the Commercial Appeal:

"State May Buy Lambuth Campus; could become part of U of M"
Pretty much everyone in the Memphis Conference knows Lambuth University has been having financial difficulties for some time now. In December, an emergency meeting was called, at which we were given the low-down: Lambuth is out of money.

But not all is lost, the President of the Board of Trustees promised. A new "interim" president has been hired who has expertise at turning around failing institutions. Lambuth's Trustees promised "transparency" as they worked through this difficult time. And, oh yes, send money... now!

Since that meeting, two payrolls have arrived late as the administration scrounged to find someone to accept what little collateral the school has left.

Has anyone called Neal Wanless yet? I hear he's loaded!

But at our Annual Conference meeting just last week, a cheerful picture was presented. Here's what Dr. Jerry Israel, the school president, reported:

"In the face of serious financial strains and significant leadership challenges Lambuth has made great strides. Since assuming the Presidency of Lambuth in November 2008, all senior staff positions have been filled with capable, dedicated leaders, and re-structuring of operations has been initiated which has resulted in greater accountability, cost savings and efficiency of operation. A new plan for moving toward financial stability and future vitality has been approved by the University Trustees and is now in place."

In fact, Dr. Israel assured us (just a week ago) they have drafted a balanced budget for the coming year.

But recently, someone at the "Commercial Appeal" was sifting through Gov. Bredesen's state budget and discovered a line item for exploring the "feasibility of a state acquisition of the Lambuth campus" -- literally to examine whether the state should acquire the land and assets of Lambuth University. This is not the result of heavy-handed tactics by the state -- Lambuth initiated the dialog.

Funny, no one mentioned THAT at Annual Conference last week.

So much for "transparency".

But frankly, I don't care. Let the state of Tennessee have it. What happens to it today has no bearing on the diploma hanging on my wall since 1985. Lambuth has been poorly managed for decades. It has had only a marginal association with The United Methodist Church and the Memphis Conference in recent years -- when they want money. In fact, the CA article points out that Lambuth "is affiliated with, but not owned by, the United Methodist Church".

Explain that to the hundreds of Memphis Conference donors who annually support "our college", or to all those who heard the appeal for help back in December and in just a matter of weeks delivered more than $160,000 from Memphis Conference churches.

Better yet, tear it down. At this point, Lambuth University stands as yet another monument to our inability to carry out ministry in the Memphis Conference. And being rid of this money-pit will ease the Annual Conference budget by $400,000 per year.

What a week! I think I'll go eat some Crunchberries and check my email again on my out-dated and over-priced I-Phone.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spoiler Alert!

I just got home from seeing “Terminator: Salvation” at the local Malco…

I know, it’s been out a couple weeks…

I’m slow, okay?!?

Anyway, I just couldn’t wait to get back home and blog about it. If you haven’t seen “Terminator: Salvation” yet…



I saw the trailer.

I watched interviews with the actors… another reason I don’t watch the morning shows anymore!

Everyone said the 3rd Terminator movie (“Rise of the Machines”) was the worst movie of the franchise. So why attempt a fourth movie?

Oh, we’re getting back to our roots, director “McG” assured us.

Wait a minute. What (TF) kind of name is McG?

I was expecting someone like Snoop Dog or P-Diddy. Instead, I discover McG looks like this:

His real name is Joseph McGinty Nichols. I guess “Joe” is not cool enough for a movie “this good”!

Anyway, back to the movie. In short, it sucked wind! “” does not provide enough space here to go into detail.

By the way, whatever happened to Sarah Connor?

Now that’s a real woman!

On the bright side, at least now everyone will say the 3rd “Terminator” movie is no longer the worst movie of the franchise. The 4th “Terminator” movie is… perhaps even the worst movie ever made.

Time will tell.

Hey, maybe we could send a T-800 back in time to stop McG from making this movie!

Much to my dismay, John Connor’s closing line – after receiving a heart transplant at a field hospital from a cyborg whose heart John Connor had only minutes before jump-started with a high-voltage electrical cord – was the set up for more movies to follow. In fact, McG says there will be at least two more.

Maybe by that time the machines will have risen up and destroyed all the movie theaters… or at least the soon-to-be-sentient movie projectors will refuse to show them!

Lord help us all! We do need a savior!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Annual Conference 2009

The 170th session of the Memphis Annual Conference is now officially over. I was there.

Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt.

Of course, when I say “I was there”, it doesn’t necessarily mean I was glued to a seat on the floor of the conference, absorbing every fragrant word that emanated from the dais.

When I say “I was there”, I mean I was at the Civic Center… somewhere… during the entire conference.

I had my picture taken for the new conference pictorial directory. I once again wore my favorite Hawaiian-print shirt for the official portrait… a bright spot in a sea of suits and ties.

I did the health check-up provided by Methodist Health System. Still “the picture of perfect health”… although the “Body Mass Index” declares I am “obese”… seems I should only weigh 155. I admit I could lose a few pounds, but that seems a bit extreme.

Most of the time one could find me out in the hallways talking with colleagues I haven’t seen since last year’s annual conference. Who is present? Who is absent? Who is moving? Who looks healthier? Who has noticeably aged since last year?

Catching up. Commiserating. Encouraging. Bitching.

A time of holy conferencing.

Sadly, some of them live and serve in Memphis, but we never seem to find / take the time to talk. Always too busy, we kid ourselves.

Until we get to annual conference.

As for the business of the conference? Well, there are enough people who enjoy that kind of stuff to handle it.

To be fair, the organizers of the conference have set the tone. In an effort to save money by reducing the number of days for which we would need to rent the civic center, most of the agency / ministry reports are placed on a “consent calendar”.

That is, their written reports were filed without reading.


What the consent agenda conveys is, “These agency reports aren’t worth our time.”

But take, for example, campus ministry. As a conference we say we support campus ministry. We know we lose a lot of our young people during their college years. We admit we need a United Methodist presence on our college campuses. Yet, the conference budget continues to shrink, and cuts have to be made. So last year the conference told our campus ministers (among others) they would need to somehow become self-supporting in the coming years. Yet this year, the campus ministry report was relegated to the “consent calendar”.

How can the campus ministers raise awareness and support if they are not allowed to speak?

One report we all heard – loud and clear – was the word from Conference Finance and Administration. Last year, as a conference, we paid less than 80% of our given apportionments. We have to do better.

To put pressure on the clergy, CFA pointed out an often overlooked section of the Discipline that says if the church does not pay 100% of connectional support items, the pastor’s salary should be reduced by the same percentage.

Do you see why this is “often overlooked”?

The obvious question was raised: If the pastor is penalized for what the church does not pay, will the District Superintendent’s salary also be reduced by what the district as a whole does not pay? And will the Bishop’s salary be reduced by what the conference as a whole does not pay?

Not surprisingly, the answer was, “No, of course not.”

And I suspect this part of the Discipline will continue to be overlooked.

CFA also recommended that the Bishop and Cabinet follow through with a resolution the conference adopted a few years ago (but ignored, as we so often do) by making assessments of churches that have not paid out 100% over the past five years. Such churches are subject to being closed or being forced to merge with another congregation or being yoked into a multi-church charge.

But where does one start with such a draconian measure? The small rural congregation that only merits a part-time local pastor but faithfully bears the light of Christ to a distant and scattered community? The inner-city church that welcomes the poor and hungry but struggles to make budget? How about the 3,000-member church out in the suburbs that invests too heavily in buildings and staff and can’t pay out? Or the much-acclaimed baby-boomer church that funds a marvelous program but has little left over for the conference budget?

So, in two short days, we did the impossible: reports were heard, a budget was adopted, and pastoral appointments for the coming year were announced.

And on Wednesday morning, the sun still rose in the sky. The birds continued to sing.

Perhaps we did not do too much damage.

And now I have returned to my assigned charge, renewed and revitalized. Not by reports and budgets, but by the fellowship.

Here I will continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a neighborhood that could use a little good news... And here I will continue to shape this congregation of believers to be a place for ALL people to become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.